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Officials may try to keep their jobs by sticking to the government’s line of cannabis being a harmful drug when used recreationally and that it should remain illegal. However, they are beginning to be forced by the available evidence to commit to the view that there are significant medicinal benefits that may be available from cannabis.
This extensive review highlights the contradiction of a Schedule 1 drug, which has by definition no medicinal value, having significant medicinal value in a wide variety of applications. As a result, the chief medical officer for England and chief medical advisor to the UK government recommends, therefore, that cannabis and safe synthetic cannabinoids be removed from Schedule 1 in order to make it more available for prescription and study. In this review, recreational use is not assessed. However, UK laws are expected to change.
There is no denying that cannabis can be and is in many cases a harmful drug. It can increase the risk of schizophrenia and other mental disorders, smoked cannabis is known to cause respiratory problems, increased risk of road traffic accidents, and there is an increased risk of substance abuse disorders with cannabis use. These are all demonstrable and well established effects of the drug. The author concludes “cannabis is an addictive and harmful drug”.
This review compiles the known and probable medicinal uses of cannabis. These include:
|Chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting||Anorexia and weight loss|
|Chelation therapy||Irritable bowel syndrome|
|Epilepsy||Spasticity related to multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury|
|Tourette syndrome||Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis|
|Huntington’s disease||Parkinson’s disease|
|Glaucoma||Traumatic brain injury|
|Addiction||Depression and anxiety|
|Sleep disorders||Post traumatic stress disorder|
|Schizophrenia and other psychoses||Autism|
The strength of evidence varies significantly, with the strongest evidence supporting cannabis use for chronic pain and chemotherapy induced nausea. Other conditions like weight gain, MS spasticity, anxiety and mental health disorders, brain damage, cancer, epilepsy, and PTSD are possibly treatable with cannabis but there is insufficient evidence to conclude with any certainty that this is the case.
By its very definition, a Schedule 1 drug cannot have medicinal benefits. The above list is a direct contradiction of the inclusion of cannabis in Schedule 1, and suggests the urgent need for review. A different scheduling could include the known harm of cannabis use but allow for appropriate and safe use of the drug in the myriad conditions it is known to treat. There are safer ways of administering cannabis that can significantly reduce the harm of cannabis use.
The confusing legislation surrounding cannabis and cannabinoids is in need of review. Cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids are Schedule 1, with the exception of cannabidiol, which is available on prescription. Some synthetic cannabinoids are automatically included in Schedule 1 without evidence to prove harm or a lack of medicinal effect. Cannabis being included in Schedule 1 makes studying the drug difficult and prescribing it where appropriate impossible. The legalization of medicinal cannabis in other countries demonstrates the need for review.
This review concludes that cannabis should not be a Schedule 1 drug because it has clear medicinal effects. More study is required to further the understanding of these effects. The UK government resoundingly rejected the evidence in this review.latest UK cannabis scheduling review